"Reach for the skies" has a whole new meaning now.
The science-fiction Western "Cowboys & Aliens" is an entertaining, genre-blending romp. It's a serious movie, too - a drama with comedic moments, in other words - and that makes it all the more exciting.
Watching Harrison Ford take on a quasi-bad-guy role as Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde is fun, too. His character is a long way from Indiana Jones and Han Solo. Daniel Craig as Jake Lonergan, on the other hand, isn't too far removed from his James Bond alter ego as a man of few words who thinks and acts quickly.
The movie begins with Lonergan waking up in a deserted spot with a mysterious "bracelet" on his arm. He kicks the daylights out of a bunch of baddies who try to attack him, and then, accompanied by their dog, heads into a town where he has an unpleasant encounter with the spoiled son (Paul Dano) of Dolarhyde. The younger Dolarhyde is a bully who is seemingly unstoppable as he rages around. And now Lonergan has stepped over the line.
Both the younger Dolarhyde and Lonergan end up on the wrong end of the law. Meanwhile, Col. Dolarhyde accuses one of his men of killing his cattle. The hard-drinking accused claims he saw a bright light just before the cattle died. Dolarhyde doesn't believe this ridiculous story (which, of course, turns out to be true).
It's not until a group of townspeople and Dolarhyde's men are gathered that the spacecraft appear, blasting through the town and literally herding people into their spacecraft. On hand is a woman named Ellie (Olivia Wilde) who continues to ask Lonergan what he can remember and how he got that apparatus on his arm.
I like the way the script handles the idea of the aliens, who are seen as "demons" from a Western point of view. The townspeople are terrified and simply unable to explain exactly what has come into their midst or what has happened to their loved ones who have been swept up into the spacecraft.
The look of the movie is great, with believable sets, costumes and landscapes. Ford and Craig are a pleasure to watch, particularly when they're onscreen together, and you've just got to love Keith Carradine as the sheriff.
The film's appeal to those who enjoy Westerns is undeniable, but it also will entertain audiences who enjoy science fiction and adventure.